Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and sixteenth, is of horror-turned-crime writer and interviewee Andrew Barrett. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Andrew’s novels ‘A Long Time Dead’ and ‘The Third Rule – Part One: Atrocities…’ are free to download on the Kindle from 15th to 19th August (inclusive) – links below.
Andrew Barrett knows the heartbeat of Yorkshire almost intimately, having lived there all his life. He loves its diversity, from the stunningly beautiful Dales to the sophistication of Leeds city centre, and has no desire to leave.
He has a rainbow of interests that span photography and motor sports, specifically Formula One, and enjoys nothing more than feeling the noise from these mechanical behemoths resonate inside his chest cavity. For serenity, he chooses to walk in the Dales irrespective of the weather! And for the solitude, he enjoys fine pencil drawing.
When the craft side takes precedence, nothing quite matches building engines for his 1984 Ford Capri.
Of course, his most intense interest is writing, and these days he writes almost exclusively crime thrillers with the odd short story thrown into the mix. His first trilogy of crime novels featured a Crime Scene Investigator called Roger Conniston, and this series, The Dead Trilogy, has been very popular with the first book, A Long Time Dead hitting the number one spot on Amazon twice – so far.
But Andrew was keen to bring into his stories some of the newer aspects of forensic evidence recovery, and he was also keen to beef up the lead character, to make him more aggressive, more caustic, and so in walked Eddie Collins, the perfect animal.
“I enjoyed writing Roger,” Andrew says, “and he was tremendous in The Dead Trilogy, having just the right balance of empathy and tact, but mixed with a raw hostility.”
Eddie is a caricature of Andrew, or so he says, “Eddie always thinks of that magnificent put-down line just at the right time, he isn’t afraid of anyone in authority, nor for that matter those who operate outside the law. Eddie is his own man and doesn’t care what he has to do to get the results he needs. I tend more towards shyness and running away very quickly, whereas Eddie gets straight to the point, and spots his opportunities immediately – there are no airs and graces about him at all.” Collins doesn’t feel awkward about using physical violence and won’t tolerate fools. It’s those qualities that Andrew wanted for the ‘new guy’ who starred in The Third Rule, where his character and emotions are thoroughly explored; and now also in the new book, Black by Rose, where he takes the ultimate gamble to get the bad guys.
And now from the author himself:
I began writing novels around 1985. The first was called Lord and Master and was utter rubbish. Of course I didn’t know that at the time; if you have an ugly baby, it’s still beautiful to you. And I only know it now simply because I’ve read so much more since then, have written much more too, and have come to appreciate the fine lines of a Stephen King novel or the coarse chiselling of a Bernard Cornwell story – leaving Lord and Master as a pathetic stick man drawn in wet sand. It’s so bad that I keep it hidden in a dusty box because it’s offensive to the eye – even mine, and I’m its father. I wrote Lord and Master longhand and then stole my sister’s Olivetti to make it look like a real pro job – Fail.
Flushed with the success of actually finishing a novel, in ’87 I wrote Charlotte’s Lodge, a story about an evil old woman with ferocious powers who takes a distinct dislike to her grandson and his poor mother. I wrote Charlotte on an old Imperial 66 typewriter that my father got for me. I seem to recall it had a missing letter – though if truth be told, that could have been something I made up one day and now believe to be true. This is about the time I discovered two things: I enjoyed writing stories very much, and I still wasn’t very good at it.
Next, around 1991, came Knavesmire; a story split between medieval and present day England. I wrote this longhand, getting about 700 words on one side of an A4 page (I’m one of those people who hates turning over!). By now I’d saved up and bought a word processor. It was a Brother and had something like a 2kB memory – wow! It had a small LCD screen that could hold one line of text… you had to scroll along to read the damned thing. You could squeeze about three pages of text into the tiny memory. I’d type in the story from the longhand notes, then print the three pages and delete them so I could type in some more. I remember being not at all happy to later find typos on the page.
I sent Knavesmire to several agents, most of whom threatened legal action if I ever wrote to them again. Another two stories for the dusty box.
And then something life-changing happened. In ’96 a Yorkshire Police Force offered me a job working as a Scenes of Crime Officer (and I’m still there 18 years later!). And so writing crime thrillers was the only way to go, and naturally I wrote about a SOCO. His name was Roger Conniston. He featured in three books which I called The Dead Trilogy.
A Long Time Dead was the first, and it saw Roger locked up because supposedly incontrovertible forensic evidence said he committed murder. Stealing Elgar swiftly followed and that told an intricate tale of Roger’s personal and professional battle with an old school gang lord who was hell-bent on committing a massive robbery. And finally, No More Tears explored Roger’s feelings towards retribution as he’s pursued not only by the remnants of the gang, but by the police, and his own fears too.
In 2004 I’d been speaking to a colleague, marvelling how a burglar who had hundreds of convictions was still at large. He said that people like that were of no use to society and should be put down, that we could afford to be picky these days since we didn’t suffer from a shortage of people.
This conversation gave birth to The Third Rule. This was my most ambitious project to date, but it needed a new vehicle, a new hero, someone who was more aggressive than Roger Conniston ever was. His name was Eddie Collins. I should explain that for the most part, the characters I write are loosely based on myself, and by now I’d been working for the police about eight years and had developed a rather cutting cynicism which I flavoured with a hearty dose of sarcasm. Eddie Collins was me, except stronger, more a caricature who expressed his cynicism and his anger much more fiercely than I ever dare.
The Third Rule saw a new, harsher breed of government come to power advocating a return to the death penalty for those people who could not stop breaking the law. They were given two chances, and the third time they broke the law, they were put to death. ‘Justice’ was dealt out in a production-line fashion, with ill-conceived and flawed convictions. It’s a radical novel, not least because I invented the Justice Ministry, something which actually later happened.
On the whole I think the main theme works wonderfully; the premise of such an awful fate appears to me so real, so vivid in this story that it’s wholly plausible.
A year or so after I began this book, I began to work on some television scripts with a colleague. This went on for six or seven years, before the hankering to finish The Third Rule became too strong to ignore anymore. In a hair-pulling flurry that spanned months, I finished all 260,000 words of it. And it’s had some stunningly wonderful reviews.
Recently I took delivery of the proof copy, and I feel as though I’ve achieved something quite (for me) incredible. I’ll have to look back on it though in a few years to make sure it’s not another Lord and Master.
The latest work is a continuation of Eddie Collins’s incredible story. He’s moved from SOCO to the Major Crime Unit where his irascible nature takes him into battle with a notorious Leeds gang and a close call with a gun pointing at his head.
This novel is entitled Black by Rose.
You can find more about Andrew and his writing via…
NB. Andrew’s novels ‘A Long Time Dead’ and ‘The Third Rule – Part One: Atrocities…’ are free to download on the Kindle from 15th to 19th August (inclusive) – links above.
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